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‘Never turn back’ lifeboat memorial handed proud listed status

PUBLISHED: 17:12 08 June 2020 | UPDATED: 18:01 08 June 2020

The Beauchamp lifeboat memorial has been listed by Historic England Picture: Caister Lifeboat

The Beauchamp lifeboat memorial has been listed by Historic England Picture: Caister Lifeboat

Archant

A memorial for nine lifeboatmen has been added to the nation’s list of buildings of historic interest.

The wreckage of Caister lifeboat Beauchamp was finally broken up in 1966. She capsized on a rescue launch in 1901, with the death of nine of her crew Picture: Archant LibraryThe wreckage of Caister lifeboat Beauchamp was finally broken up in 1966. She capsized on a rescue launch in 1901, with the death of nine of her crew Picture: Archant Library

The Grade II designation of the Beauchamp memorial, in Caister, means extra protection and recognition of its value.

In the listing it is hailed by Historic England for its sculptural quality featuring a broken mast, anchor, laurel wreathes, and lifebuoy.

Experts said it was a “visual reminder of the tragic loss of life at sea,” describing it as “an eloquent and moving tribute to the bravery of the crew who perished in 1901, and a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of the local community.”

The marble memorial, unveiled in 1903, remembers the crew of the Beauchamp who perished while trying to save a fishing smack in distress.

The lifeboat shed at Caister which was built in 1887 and washed away in storms in 1943. It was the shed where the bodies of the victims of the Beauchamp disaster were taken as a temporary morgue, but wasn't the shed where the Beauchamp was housed, as being a wooden lifeboat she was kept on the beach to ensure the boards remained swollen and waterproof Picture: Archant ArchiveThe lifeboat shed at Caister which was built in 1887 and washed away in storms in 1943. It was the shed where the bodies of the victims of the Beauchamp disaster were taken as a temporary morgue, but wasn't the shed where the Beauchamp was housed, as being a wooden lifeboat she was kept on the beach to ensure the boards remained swollen and waterproof Picture: Archant Archive

Poignantly, individual grave stones were placed within the boundary of the memorial in the same position as the crew occupied the lifeboat.

At an inquest into the deaths, assistant coxswain James Haylett famously said the crew would never give up on a stricken vessel, with his comments then being taken up nationally by the press and public as “Caister men never turn back”.

The Beauchamp had been in service for nine years, and been on some 81 “shouts”, when disaster struck.

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The ill-fated rescue effort saw the boat launched amid churning seas on November 13, 1901.

A donation box has been unearthed in the dunes at Caister sparking much speculation about how it got there. 
It relates to the 1901 Beauchamp disaster when a fund was raised to support the widows and children left fatherless Picture: Archant ArchiveA donation box has been unearthed in the dunes at Caister sparking much speculation about how it got there. It relates to the 1901 Beauchamp disaster when a fund was raised to support the widows and children left fatherless Picture: Archant Archive

So severe were the conditions it took several hours to even get afloat, and eventually the boat was overcome and capsized trapping the crew underneath.

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James Haylett, who witnessed the disaster, was able to rescue his son-in-law Charles Knights and grandson Walter Haylett along with crew member John Hubbard.

However the nine remaining men - including four other Hayletts - could not be saved.

Places  -  C

Caister-On-Sea Lifeboat
The lifeboat monument in Caister cemetery. Nine men of Caister who lost their lives in the lifeboat 'Beauchamp' on the morning of 14th November 1901.

Dated  July 1952

Plate  P9362Places - C Caister-On-Sea Lifeboat The lifeboat monument in Caister cemetery. Nine men of Caister who lost their lives in the lifeboat 'Beauchamp' on the morning of 14th November 1901. Dated July 1952 Plate P9362

The inquest into the tragedy was opened the following day.

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When asked by the coroner why the mission was not aborted due to the severe conditions, Mr Haylett replied: “They would never give up the ship.

“If they had to keep at it ‘til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her.

“Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that.”

The phrase “never turn back” became the motto of the Caister Lifeboat crew and eventually was adopted as a motto throughout the RNLI.

Caister lifeboat spokesman Colin Willavize, said: “This is something that we are all very proud of.”

The Caister Lifeboat Station has been independent of the RNLI since 1969 and is one of only three independent lifeboat stations in the country.

A total of 20 lifeboat crew from the village have lost their lives saving trying to save others at sea.

The Beauchamp crewmen lost were: Aaron Walter Haylett (Coxswain), James Haylett Jr (Late Cox), William Brown (Second Coxswain), Charles Brown, William Wilson, John Smith, George King, Charles George, and Harry Knights.


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